Ghazal 42, Verse 2


;zarrah ;zarrah saa;Gar-e mai-;xaanah-e nairang hai
gardish-e majnuu;N bah chashmak'haa-e lail;aa aashnaa

1) every sand-grain is a cup/glass of the wine-house of fascination/magic
2) the going-around of Majnun is acquainted/familiar with the glances/winks of Laila


nairang : 'Fascination, bewitching arts, wiles; magic, sorcery; deception; — deceit; trick; pretence; evasion; — freak; — a wonderful performance, a miracle; anything new or strange:'. (Platts p.1166)


gardish : 'Going round, turning round, revolution; circulation; roll; course; period; turn, change; vicissitude; reversion; --adverse fortune, adversity; --wandering about, vagrancy'. (Platts p.903)

chashmak : 'Winking, a wink; looking askance (at), coldness, misunderstanding'. (Platts p.433)


aashnaa : 'Acquaintance; friend; associate; intimate friend, familiar; lover, sweetheart; paramour; mistress, concubine; --adj. Acquainted (with, - se ), knowing, known; attached (to), fond (of)'. (Platts p.57)


That is, in the world every sand-grain, which is caught up in the revolving of the cycles of time, is a sign of the amazement of the heavens. Here, he has arranged for the word 'cup/glass' the meaning of 'going round' [gardish] and, with the same kind of wordplay, has connected to the word 'amazement' the 'wine-house'. After this, by way of allegory, he says, 'Majnun's going around is at the behest of Laila alone'. (39)

== Nazm page 39


The way the going around of Majnun was in thrall to the effects of Laila's eyes, in the same way every sand-grain of the world is obedient to the fascination of the world. (41)

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, in the world every single sand-grain has the power of deceit and trickery of every single cup/glass in a winehouse. And all this fascination-making in the world is taking place at the behest of the heavens. An example of this is, look at Majnun-- his wanderings in madness are at the behest of Laila alone. (78)


I am finding it quite difficult to understand, and explain, why 'fascination' is called a 'wine-house'. How can I have the extremity of knowledge that others do? The words 'wine-glass/flagon', 'wine-house', 'going around', and 'glance' have affinity.... Contrary to Janab Ghalib's style of expression, this line can be [made] simple and clear like this: 'Every sand-grain of this world is a state of fascination'. (183-84)


WINE-HOUSE: {33,6}
ZARRAH: {15,12}

Right after a verse of the most easily intelligible kind, comes this sudden gem of abstraction. Not surprisingly, the commentators don't entirely agree on how to interpret it, though Nazm and Shadan point out its fine wordplay. (Isn't Shadan an enjoyable commentator? So candid about his perplexities-- and also so ready to show Ghalib how it should have been done! )

This is another of those Ghalibian 'A,B' verses consisting of two statements, one in each line, with no indication of how to link them together. Do they refer metaphorically to the same situation, or to two different situations? If they refer to two different situations, is one line a cause and the other line an effect? (And if so, which way around?) Or might they refer to two independent situations that are meant to be compared or contrasted with each other?

Nazm and Bekhud Dihlavi take the first line as a statement of a general truth, and the second line as an illustration of it. This works reasonably well of course: the world is a fascinating place no matter where we go in it-- as an illustration, we should consider how Majnun wanders around seeing Laila everywhere.

But one could equally well reverse the lines: the basic situation then becomes that of Majnun, while the first line extends and elaborates on the second. Majnun is perpetually allured by the glances of Laila, he is on close or friendly terms [aashnaa] with them, and sees them everywhere. Every sand-grain sparkles in the sunlight, alternately catching and losing the light-- like a 'wink' (the literal meaning of chashmak ) from Laila's bright eyes. So every sand-grain is (like) a wink from Laila.

Every sand-grain is also 'a cup/glass of the wine-house of fascination/magic'. Because the wandering of Majnun is, literally, his 'going around' [gardish], he moves just as wine-flagons and wine-glasses traditionally do, 'making the rounds' as they circulate among the drinkers. (Even today people order a 'round' of drinks.) Since glass is made from silica, a basic ingredient of sand-grains, the imagery of the verse is all the more integrally interconnected.

Interconnected indeed-- but is the whole verse going anywhere other than 'around'? If the world is a wine-house, consider the possibilities of wine, which offers sometimes mystical revelation and illumination-- but also, at other times, folly and error. And then there are the wide-ranging meanings of nairang alone, which include fascination, magic, and deception (see the definition above), as Bekhud Dihlavi notes. Then gardish can mean not only 'going around', but also 'adversity'. And chashmak means not only 'wink' but also 'looking askance, coldness, misunderstanding'. The possible readings of the verse can't help but proliferate rapidly.

So is it a dream of joy to see the the sand-grains glittering magically with winks like Laila's, or is it a nightmare to see their illusory tricks echoing her cold looks? Does Majnun wander freely in mystical delight, or is does he circle helplessly, trapped in cosmic illusion and/or Laila's displeasure? Very appropriately to the theme of the verse, Ghalib has made it impossible for us to fully understand what we're looking at.